An Artisan Baker Crafting a Scone Legacy

03 Feb 2021

From California to South America to Africa to the Sandhills of North Carolina…the circuitous journey to Pine Scones Cafe

By Lesley Berkshire Bradley  »  Photos by Mollie Tobias

Rae Anne Kinney’s route to Pine Scone Café seems almost inexplicable but upon closer examination, it makes perfect sense.

Her journey started not at culinary school but at engineering school in California where she met her future husband, an accountant. Both analytical and logical, they were a good match, married and had two children. And then things
got interesting.

The Kinney Family took a sharp turn South to Venezuela for her husband’s job with an oil company, their 2- and 5-year-old children in tow. Venezuela was ripe with political unrest, deep poverty, a crumbling infrastructure, rampant crime, economic turmoil and draconian political reforms.

“Our home was surrounded by electric wire fencing to prevent stealing,” Kinney explains, “Even our dog’s water bowl
was stolen.”

Five years later, after surviving the Chavez political upheaval, the Kinney clan did not take the easy route and head back to the states, but instead headed across the Atlantic to West Africa, specifically, Angola, for another long hardship stint. No engineering and no baking. She was a full-time mother and support to her executive husband.

The civil war in Angola had only ended the year before the Kinney’s arrival and the country was in chaos. The streets had no names or they had more than one name. Getting around required a driver, and electricity came in fits and starts.

“Errands as simple as replacing a printer cartridge took all day.”

Kinney’s volunteer work in Angola was emotionally grueling, supporting those who were  removing deadly landmines and comforting undernourished orphans of the war.

This long journey through third world countries finally brought Kinney to
the Sandhills.

Like many people, the Kinney’s ended up in Pinehurst because of her husband’s love of golf. But after years of hardship duty, Kinney did not want to retire on the links. She wanted to build something of her own. Thus, was born Pine Scones Cafe. Well, actually, the name “Pine Scones”, came first, and the business followed.

Kinney wanted a scone to go with her coffee and there weren’t any scones sold in the area, so she coined the phrase “Pine Scones”, and then set about creating a recipe for the perfect scone. After testing the recipes on friends and family, she launched a home-based artisan bakery in 2009.

The challenges of living in third world countries gave Kinney the temerity to throw herself into a business even though she had no culinary training. She had lots of non-traditional ideas…scones with blueberries and white chocolate…. and a willingness to experiment…think of the much-loved Green Gobblin Scones with Crème de Menthe and Crushed Andes Mints.

The scones are not like the traditional, rather dry scones that one finds in England. There is no need for Devonshire Cream with Pine Scones. They are moist and flavorful, and wonderful to eat on their own with your cup of coffee or tea.

“There is more to making our scones than the recipe and the ingredients,” explains Kinney, “Each step of the process is key to getting the right texture.” And to top it off, the scones, aptly, are triangular, so they are shaped like pine trees.

The “Pine Scones” were a success, sold through local stores. The cute little Scone Mobile became a welcome sight as it zipped around the area.

Kinney moved into her first storefront location, the Pine Scone Café, in 2016
in Pinehurst.

“Moving next to Elliotts On Linden was a good baby step after the Scone Mobile” she explains. It had low overhead and was an easy commute from Kinney’s home. After three years she made a profit and felt she could open her next location.

In January 2020 she opened her second, much larger  location in Southern Pines. Just in time for the COVID-19 shutdown in March.

This is where Kinney’s years of experience of managing the unexpected in third world countries has paid off. She turned on a dime and went right back to where she started, selling Pine Scones at the local farmer’s markets, since they were still open. Once retailers were able to open again, Kinney pivoted quickly a second time, hired back her staff, and started retail sales again.

“I learned to deal with life as it happens and come up with a solution,” she explains, “All problems have solutions as long as you focus on what you can control and are willing to try new things.”

Her optimism and flexibility helped her establish and grow the Pine Scones business, and to keep things going during the pandemic. She is back to employing 22 people, and, thus far, the business has been able to remain in the black.

As Kinney looks towards the future, she sees Pine Scones as a major brand, with stores throughout the country.

“The Southern Pines location is my concept store.”

The original location is small, rustic, cozy and homey.  The Southern Pines location has more of a shabby chic vibe with a long wooden table made by local maker Therapeutic Timber, soft grey colors, well-worn leather couches, a large wooden sofa swing and even a guitar for a budding musician.

“People have told me that it feels like something Joanna Gaines from the TV show Fixer Upper would design,”
notes Kinney.

She is thinking long term. Choosing a coffee supplier, Counter Culture, that has strong barista training and nationwide support for when she begins to expand the stores.

“My family doesn’t understand why I am still working when my husband is retired, but this is my passion. The stores are my babies.”

She still sells the Pine Scones through other local retailers to ensure her customers can get their scones easily; Swank, Pony Expresso, The Roast Office, The Corner Store and, even The Bistro at The Reid Heart Center, all carry Pine Scones.

The engineer with a lust for the lyrical has continued to coin phrases that are now a part of the local vernacular...Pine Scones, Get Sconed, Baking It Happen.

The Pine Scone product line has grown and includes savory scones, seasonal scones, and bite-sized scones. For those who like to have their scone warm from their own oven, Pine Scones also offers ‘take and bake’ frozen scone dough logs that can be sliced and baked at home. At the Southern Pines location, a breakfast sandwich option is available, called Sconewiches, like a Cheddar Scone toasted with maple wood-smoked ham and  cheese of your choice.

“The Sconewiches, were a happy surprise and are very popular.”

Her goal is to create “Scone Addicts”, to use another of Kinney’s catchphrases. “Once people try our scones, they can’t stop eating them,” smiles Kinney. Currently selling 13,000 scones a month puts her well on the way.

The Mission Statement posted on the store wall sums up the Pine Scones journey: “Bake the world a sweeter place, one scone at a time!”

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